With the model code of conduct to kick in, the proposed international airport for Pune will be pushed by another year, and taken up by the new government formed after the Assembly elections in October.
In November last year, the state gave in-principle nod for the airport at Khed taluka. However, with the government hesitating to give the final nod to the proposal, status quo has been maintained for the proposal.
“It is only after the government gives us the final approval that we can take the project forward. At present, with no approval and directive, we are at status quo,” said Tanaji Satre, chairman and managing director of Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC).
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With the site being at Khed, the issue of land acquisition of SEZ land and compensation fell through which had the government asking the MADC to survey the old site in Chakan. “We have surveyed the site again as per demand, but as usual we have not found it suitable. The site was surveyed earlier and the undulation of the land is not suitable. We have submitted our report,’’ officials said after re-surveying the old site.
The site which was given an “in-principle” approval was found suitable with the Airport Authority of India too giving its clearance after survey. With the current air traffic, the urgency of a Green Field Airport is the need of the hour and the Pune International Airport Project will be the answer. After the formal approval, clearances from the ministries of civil aviation, environment, defence and home affairs, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and India Meteorological Department will have to be sought.
After six years and eight site surveys by the MADC, Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the district administration, the final site was cleared by the Prime Minister’s office in November last year.
“It is a major set back for the city. I understand that there were problems with land acquisition and compensation, but a solution should have come about. Even at the Lohegaon airport there should be more connectivity to the Middle eastern countries and Singapore for onward connections at least in the interim period,’’ said Satish Magar, vice-president of Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India. He added that the Lohegaon airport should allow more parking facility and have more flights. However, he said the lackadaisical approach of the government was definitely affecting trade in Pune.
Anant Sardeshmukh, director general of Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), said, “The government was all set, but there was some problem with land acquisition. This has affected the companies that invested in Pune. People have to travel to Mumbai to take international planes.” Lack of an airport has affected export by nearly 30-40 per cent. The new airport will help better connectivity to Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, and Aurangabad.